Wearing a fitness tracker increases your step count - even if you've never looked at it

Wearing a fitness tracker increases your step count – even if you’ve never looked at it

Provo, Utah – If you’re looking to walk more daily, consider wearing a fitness tracker. New research from Brigham Young University has found that simply wearing one — even if you don’t look at it — may increase the time you spend walking.

More specifically, the researchers reported that people who wore a fitness tracker walked an average of 318 more steps per day than those without the device. Interestingly, this was true even if the subjects weren’t working toward a specific fitness goal or stimulus, and even when they couldn’t see the step the pedometer had kept.

says Bill Tyler, study co-author and professor at BYU’s Marriott School of Business in University release. “When people go get an Apple Watch or a Fitbit, of course that will affect their behavior; they get the device with the goal of walking more. But it’s helpful for people to know that even without trying, just realizing that something is tracking your steps increases your activity.”

A little exercise can go a long way toward better health, of course. The researchers say their work may be of benefit to those in the healthcare industry or companies with a vested interest in public health. “If you were an insurance executive, I would be interested to know that you can hand out basic fitness trackers to people, and as long as they wear them, they will walk more,” Tyler explains.

Fitness Trackers Test

To research how monitoring affects people’s steps, the study authors developed an innovative experiment design. “We wanted to know, in the absence of goals and incentives, does fitness tracking simply change behavior? Until this study, no one had convincingly demonstrated what we showed – from an academic point of view, this turns out to be a very difficult question to answer,” Professor Tyler continues.

In order to prove that people tend to walk more while wearing a pedometer, researchers needed to know how many people walked before they had a fitness tracker or The amount of pedometer users walk compared to another randomly selected group of people not wearing one. However, both scenarios require the use of a fitness tracker to achieve baseline measurements. To solve this problem, the researchers used the iPhone’s default step-tracking feature.

“It was a bit of a tricky way to get the data we needed,” Professor Tyler adds.

To start, the researchers asked all 90 study participants to give them permission to access the data on their smartphones. But the participants were not actually told that their steps were recorded from the previous weeks. This provided the above basic measurements covering how much participants typically walked when they were not under active monitoring.

Then some of the participants were given fitness trackers without a screen, while the rest were kept informed of the true purpose of the study. Two weeks later, the step count data was accessed again from the subject’s iPhones.

“Measurement and tracking precede improvement,” adds Brigham United University alumnus Christian Tadje, who led the research as a student working with the Healthcare Industry Research Collaborative. “If you want something to improve — for example, a workplace KPI or a personal health goal — our study shows that you should consider tracking your progress.”

The study Posted in American Journal of Health Behavior.

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